Did companies hire lots more people in June? Are many jobless Americans still not ready to return to work? And what’s the real unemployment rate?

Here’s what Wall Street is looking for in the U.S. employment report for June due out Friday morning.

700,000 new jobs

Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal predict the U.S. gained 706,000 new jobs last month. If so, it would be the biggest gain since March.

Most companies are eager to hire, especially in service-oriented businesses such as hotels, restaurants, vacation resorts, theaters and the like. Demand is surging as maskless Americans get out and about again.

The odds of a smaller employment gain are still quite high, however.

The number of people quitting their jobs recently hit a record, for one thing. There’s also been a big flush of retirements among older people who don’t want to risk their health.

Many companies have raised pay and benefits or offered other incentives to lure workers, but it’s unclear how much it’s helped. Generous unemployment benefits during the pandemic have allowed unemployed people to be more choosy about what jobs to take.

Read: U.S. unemployment claims sink to pandemic low of 364,000 as extra benefits start to get phased out

Unemployment rate

The percentage of unemployed people is expected to decline to 5.6% from 5.8%. Sounds good, but the real jobless rate is likely 2 to 3 points higher, economists and the Federal Reserve estimate.

How come? Millions of people who were working before the pandemic still aren’t working and they haven’t looked recently for a job, either. They aren’t counted in the unemployment rate.

Neither are some employees who tell the government they still have a job but no longer have a job to go back to — likely because the business closed.

Even taking those things into account, the unemployment rate has fallen a lot faster than anyone might have expected a year earlier when the pandemic was raging.

Read: U.S. manufacturers have all they business they can handle, but major shortages are a big headache

Labor force blues

A good way to judge the health of the labor market is by how many people either have a job or are looking for one. By that standard, the U.S. still has a long way to go.

Before the pandemic, the share of able-bodied people 16 or older who were in the labor force totaled 63.3%. It then fell to a 47-year low of 60.2% in the early days of the crisis after millions of people lost their jobs.

Yet the labor force has barely increased in the past year even as the economy has sharply improved. The rate of participation stood at 61.6% in May — the same as it was last October.

We’ll really know the jobs market and U.S. economy are fully back on track when millions rejoin the work force and the participation rate rises sharply.

“The U.S. economy has added some 14 million jobs since the labor market bottomed

LA CROSSE, Wis., June 29 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden promoted his $1.2 trillion infrastructure package as a “generational investment” on Tuesday as he sought to pump up support for a plan that is in need of wide support in Congress to become reality.

Biden visited a public transit facility in La Crosse, a city in western Wisconsin, highlighting the plan’s investment of some $48.5 billion in public transit to reduce commute times and help reduce emissions, while boosting economic growth and wages.

In a speech, he spoke about local gains from the deal, including funds for electric buses, replacement of some 80,000 lead water lines in Milwaukee and better access to high-speed internet.

The bipartisan package also includes $109 billion in funding for roads, bridges and other major projects, including the 1,000 bridges rated structurally deficient in Wisconsin.

“This is a generational investment to modernize our infrastructure, creating millions of good-paying jobs, and position America to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century,” said Biden.

He also noted that the plan will not hike tax on gasoline or raise taxes on Americans earning under $400,000 a year.

Vowing the plan would create jobs for middle-class people, Biden said: “This is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the bipartisan infrastructure deal in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 24, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Read More

Biden is attempting to keep up the momentum for a legislative proposal that Democratic congressional leaders believe will reach a critical stage in the second half of July.

“I expect the last two weeks of July to be very busy weeks, when we will deal with the president’s proposals,” the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, told reporters on Tuesday.

House and Senate Democrats hope to have infrastructure legislation done and on its way to Biden’s desk by the end of September, a Democratic aide said.

Senate Democrats are aiming to pass bipartisan legislation and send it to the House, before breaking for an August recess.

Biden, under massive pressure from Republicans, on Saturday withdrew a threat to not sign the bipartisan bill unless it was accompanied by a separate package focused on what he calls “human infrastructure,” including expanded home care for the elderly and disabled.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that the White House had been in touch with Democratic leaders about the two measures but Biden had not spoken about the issue with U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who wants Democrats in Congress to abandon their plan to link the two measures.

With the Senate divided 50-50 between the two parties, a move by McConnell against the bipartisan bill could cost it the 60 votes it would need to pass under Senate rules. Democrats aim to pass the companion measure through a process called reconciliation that requires a simple majority.

Psaki said Biden’s trip to Wisconsin was intended to convince Americans about

P.D. Hook, a hatchery that supplies one third of the chickens sold in the United Kingdom, should be humming along as the economy roars back to life. But the company is short about 40 farm workers, double the usual number of vacancies.

At the same time, there’s a severe deficit of truck drivers, making it difficult for P.D. Hook to transport its birds to the factories where they are cut, portioned and packed. And when the chickens do arrive, there’s a shortage of staff at the processing plants, too.

“It’s all come together at a time when everybody wants more of everything,” said Hook, the company’s managing director. “It’s a perfect storm.”

In the United States, Republican lawmakers have blamed enhanced unemployment benefits for fueling the problem, while left-leaning economists propose a simple solution: pay higher wages. In the United Kingdom, lobby groups are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to revise post-Brexit immigration rules so Europeans can fill vacancies, while Singapore and Australia’s leaders are under pressure to relax travel restrictions so migrant workers can return.

What’s increasingly clear is that after the coronavirus pandemic delivered an unprecedented shock to the global economy, putting tens of millions of people out of work and displacing many others, the job market will never be the same. Trained workers are stuck in the wrong places. Others have retired early, are skeptical about going back to work in the face of lingering health concerns, or are having difficulty securing reliable child care.

Some US gas stations are running dry because of a shortage of truckers
The economy emerging from the crisis also looks different from the one that preceded it. Demand is higher in some sectors and lower in others. Workers have left front-line jobs in some industries for roles that are less exposed to the coronavirus, won’t be affected by fresh lockdowns, or offer better work-life balance. In the United States, a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April, including 649,000 retail workers. A recent EY survey of more than 16,200 employees globally found that more than half would consider ditching their job after the pandemic if they weren’t offered enough flexibility on where and when they work.

“This is a time of flux,” said Erica Groshen, who served as commissioner of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2013 to 2017. “[It’s] not so much that it’s an overall labor shortage, as a time of structural changes [for the economy].”

‘The challenges are huge’

Around the world, businesses are naming a similar concern: They need workers. They need them fast. And they can’t always find them.

The United States reported a record 9.3 million job openings in April. The United Kingdom saw advertised job vacancies spike 45% between the end of March and the middle of June, according to Adzuna, a job search engine. Research group IHS Markit reports that firms across the European Union are suffering staff shortages as business activity grows at the fastest pace in 15 years.

“There definitely is a job seeker shortage,” said Andrew Hunter, Adzuna’s

Jonathan Caballero is among the millions of workers who are rethinking how how they want to live their lives after the pandemic. He has found a new job that won’t require a long commute.

Andrea Hsu/NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Andrea Hsu/NPR

Jonathan Caballero is among the millions of workers who are rethinking how how they want to live their lives after the pandemic. He has found a new job that won’t require a long commute.

Andrea Hsu/NPR

Jonathan Caballero made a startling discovery last year. At 27, his hair was thinning. The software developer realized that life was passing by too quickly as he was hunkered down at home in Hyattsville, Md.

There was so much to do, so many places to see. Caballero envisioned a life in which he might end a work day with a swim instead of a long drive home. So when his employer began calling people back to the office part-time, he balked at the 45-minute commute. He started looking for a job with better remote work options and quickly landed multiple offers.

“I think the pandemic has changed my mindset in a way, like I really value my time now,” Caballero says.

As pandemic life recedes in the U.S., people are leaving their jobs in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time. It’s leading to a dramatic increase in resignations — a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone, according to the Labor Department.

In normal times, people quitting jobs in large numbers signals a healthy economy with plentiful jobs. But these are not normal times. The pandemic led to the worst U.S. recession in history, and millions of people are still out of jobs. Yet employers are now complaining about acute labor shortages.

“We haven’t seen anything quite like the situation we have today,” says Daniel Zhao, a labor economist with the jobs site Glassdoor.

The pandemic has given people all kinds of reasons to change direction. Some people, particularly those who work in low wage jobs at restaurants, are leaving for better pay. Others may have worked in jobs that weren’t a good fit but were waiting out the pandemic before they quit. And some workers are leaving positions because they fear returning to an unsafe workplace.

Restaurant and hotel workers led the way in spring resignations

More than 740,000 people who quit in April worked in the leisure and hospitality industry, which includes jobs in hotels, bars and restaurants, theme parks and other entertainment venues.

Jeremy Golembiewski has ideas about why. Last week, after 26 years in food service, he too quit his job as general manager of a breakfast place in San Diego. The pandemic had a lot to do with it.

Work had gotten too stressful, marked by scant staffing and constant battles with unmasked customers. He contracted Covid and brought it home to his

This year’s class of Plastics Hall of Fame inductees have all traveled to dozens of countries and many were still on the move even as they have entered retirement.

They flew for work, trade shows, conferences, speeches and pleasure. That is, until early 2020 when they were put on “house arrest,” as Vince Witherup said during a recent interview with Plastics News.

The coronavirus pandemic grounded or reduced most airline travel, which was one of the reasons the Plastics Academy Hall of Fame ceremony was delayed alongside NPE2021. The ceremony will now take place in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Oct. 7 during the Plastics Industry Association’s annual meeting and fall conference. All inductees intend to make the trip.

Each of the 10 inductees were interviewed by Plastics News for the special issue and are featured with their own story and video.

While each inductee is unique in their plastics knowledge, they all share a common thread: travel. I’ve gathered some tidbits.

For Sal Monte, the stories go on as long as the miles. He traveled to give lectures and enlighten the masses to broaden material use.

“I talked with all my heart and soul to spread my mission to teach people how to use raw materials more efficiently using titanium,” he said.

He said he and his wife, Erika, had visited 52 countries and plan to be on the move again when the world opens back up.

Suresh Shah, who was born in India, spent much of his time traveling in the 1990s for General Motors/Delphi. He said he greatly benefited from working with people across different cultures and comparing them in the U.S., Europe and Africa.

“I really like Europe, Germany in particular, where they take one-and-a-half-hour lunch breaks, you come back more energetic,” he said. “And here we are, we are workaholics, we were so much.”

Peter Neumann, former CEO of Engel Holding GmbH, which is headquartered in Schwertberg, Austria, was inspired to focus on expanding the business to the world market after a trip to Asia in the 1970s. Neumann’s profile was written by my colleague, Plastics News Assistant Managing Editor Steve Toloken.

“As a student, I was traveling a lot,” he said. “I was traveling through Thailand and China, and at that time, it was not so open as it was today. I was so fascinated about the culture, not the historical culture but the business culture and the way people are working and hardworking.”

Neumann has slowed down in recent years but enjoys trips to the Mediterranean Sea to go sailing. He also spends time skiing with his twin 7-year-old grandsons.

German machinery executive Ulrich Reifenhäuser enjoyed building friendships with people he normally wouldn’t contact: “It really enriches my life and gives me new inputs and new ideas on what I can do better in the time to come.”

He particularly liked international sales and the entrepreneurs he would meet and build friendships with around the world as the industry globalized, whether that was

The pandemic has distorted a previously strong labor market, leaving predominantly lower income workers, women, Hispanic and Black workers unemployed.

Now the vaccine rollout, warmer weather and the reopening of the economy are bearing fruit, helping the jobs recovery to strengthen. Economists polled by Refinitiv on average predict 978,000 jobs were added in April, up from the 916,000 positions added in March. But many of those forecasts far exceed the average: Jefferies (JEF) is predicting 2.1 million jobs added, and Goldman Sachs (GS) forecasts 1.3 million, according to Refinitiv.
Still, America is down millions of jobs — more than 7 million should the consensus forecast hold — compared to February last year, before the pandemic hit. Economists are confident that many of these lost positions will come back over the course of the year.
On Wednesday, the ADP Employment Report, which measures private payrolls, said 742,000 jobs were added in April, mostly in the services sector, particularly in leisure and hospitality. The report, which is not correlated with the government’s tally, has undershot the official numbers in recent months.
Meanwhile, weekly claims for unemployment benefits fell to 498,000 last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That marked the first time during the pandemic that weekly claims fell below 500,000. Although jobless claims remain more than double their level from before the pandemic, last week counted more than 40,000 fewer claims than economists had expected.

“The pick-up in employment growth isn’t as strong as we had been expecting, especially given the recent boost to demand from the fiscal stimulus, and could be a sign that the increasingly widespread reports of labor shortages are starting to constrain hiring,” said Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics.

Indeed, there are some industries in which businesses are hard pressed to find workers. Factories and manufacturers continue to have trouble finding specialized and even entry-level workers. Industry executives say many potential employees worry those jobs aren’t sustainable because they could be sent overseas or replaced by automation.

This worker shortage could put pressure on wages to rise, which could be reflected in the April jobs report, economists said.

How the Fed could react

The Federal Reserve is also watching the labor market improvements closely. After all, achieving “maximum employment” is one of the two mandates for the central bank.

The other is to keep inflation steady. But the reopening of the economy, as well as higher raw material and energy costs are pushing prices higher. The Fed has said repeatedly it is too early to talk about raising its ultra-low interest rates or tapering its monthly, multi-billion dollar asset purchases.

But the confluence of economic data is setting the stage for a potential policy change later this year: The price index tracking personal consumption expenditures, which is considered the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, stood at 2.3% for the year ended in March. Paired with strong job gains, this could make the central bank change its tune.

The Fed

Café Natasha is turning away customers because it can’t find enough workers. Two Maids & A Mop has turned down cleaning jobs for the same reason. And a shortage of technicians is forcing The Sound Room to stretch out installation times for home electronics.

Welcome to the contradiction at the center of the COVID-era labor market: Even in an economy with 8.3 million fewer jobs than it had at the start of the pandemic, employers are posting job openings at a record rate — and saying they can’t fill them.

This paradox has various explanations. Many workers left the labor force last year to avoid exposure to the virus, and haven’t returned. Others quit to be home with their children after schools closed.

Many employers believe their potential workers aren’t applying for jobs because they’re content to live off stimulus checks and unemployment insurance. Several studies last year debunked the notion that enhanced jobless benefits were discouraging work, but back then there really weren’t jobs to be had. Now, there are.

The Labor Department counted 7.4 million job openings in February, topping the pre-pandemic level of 7 million. The openings equal 4.9% of all jobs, which is a record high.

Jordan Black, owner of Two Maids & A Mop in Chesterfield, said his volume of job applicants fell by two-thirds when the latest stimulus payments went out. He’d like to hire six to eight people in the next month, a significant expansion of his 17-person staff, but he can’t find them.

Thirteen months into a pandemic that brought air travel to a near standstill, Americans are starting to take to the skies in substantial numbers again.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has screened record numbers of travelers at airports across the country during the roughly two-week period in March that marks many Americans’ spring breaks.

For 17 days in a row now, the TSA has screened more than 1 million people U.S. airports, marking a significant milestone for the industry. 

“That’s significant because it hasn’t happened at any point, even during the holidays, during the past year,” CBS News travel correspondent Errol Barnett told CBSN. 

It’s too early to say travel is back. After all, TSA’s screening numbers still pale in comparison to pre-pandemic passenger levels. 

“It’d be premature to suggest that travel in the U.S. is surging,” Barnett said. 

For example, on Saturday, 1.4 million American passed through airport checkpoints, compared to 2 million passengers on the same date in 2019, before COVID-19 ravaged the airline industry. 

Air travel volume remains at about 66% of pre-pandemic levels. 

“There’s a long way to go, but more people are being vaccinated and spring break of course has been a massive draw for people,” Barnett said. “So we are seeing numbers creep up over the past 2 to 3 weeks.”

The uptick in fliers comes despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation that even vaccinated Americans postpone all travel plans until more is known about how effective vaccines are against new COVID-19 variants — and whether vaccinated individuals can spread the disease. 

In the latest monthly employment data, hourly pay jumped by 7 cents an hour across all sectors on a monthly basis — a notable increase, since the vast majority of the new jobs last month came from the leisure and hospitality sector, including restaurants and bars as states eased lockdown restrictions.

How — and why — workers are seeing this increase is tough to tease out. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that comparisons are difficult and says the sharp increase in wage growth that coincided with surging unemployment is due primarily to the huge number of low-paying service-sector jobs in stores, restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues that have been lost.

In February, the average hourly pay rate for leisure and hospitality workers was $17.28. While this is a small increase on a month-to-month basis, it reflects a much larger annual jump from the $16.90 average hourly pay workers in this sector earned a year ago. Hourly pay last month was $30.01 across all sectors, compared to $28.51 in February 2020, the last snapshot of the labor market before Covid-19 shutdowns sent unemployment soaring.

“Wage growth has remained surprisingly resilient in the face of the pandemic,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“In industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic, there’s no reason for employers to cut wages, because they cut jobs,” Zandi said. Those layoffs, in turn, made the companies more dependent on the employees that did remain. “They’re not going to cut their wages, because they absolutely need them,” he said.

Harry Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University, said a contributing factor could be the minimum wage increases that went into effect in 20 states at the beginning of January. “I would think in retail, and in leisure and hospitality, the minimum wage is important,” he said. These increases might not have been captured in the January payroll data, he added, because of the timing of payroll processing: Workers might have received their first paychecks with the higher rate after the BLS’s survey period had passed.

Nick Bunker, economic research director at Indeed.com, speculated that leisure and hospitality wages could be rising because employers might be re-staffing higher-level positions first. “Even within that sector, within those industries, those positions aren’t always low-wage themselves,” he pointed out.

If this is the case, it’s not unlikely that a rush to hire cashiers and waitstaff as reopenings accelerate could have the opposite effect. “If a lot of low-wage workers are coming back, that could pull the average down,” Holzer said.

Some suggest that effect could be mitigated, though, by the expanded unemployment benefits out-of-work Americans have been able to access for much of the pandemic — benefits that might equal or even exceed what low-wage workers could have expected to collect in a paycheck.

If there is a sense of urgency to bring workers — especially lower-paid service sector workers — back, companies might not want to wait until people exhaust those benefits to draw

Tax relief in the form of credits and deductions are the foundation of a bipartisan bill designed to aid the travel industry as it struggles to move beyond the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. A stimulus bill  has been introduced in the United States to provide help to the travel industry in the form of incentives and relief measures.
  2. The effect of COVID-19 on the travel and tourism industry has been 10 times worse than the negative effect that 9/11 had on the American economy.
  3. Nearly 4 in 10 jobs lost in 2020 were from the hospitality and leisure sector of the travel and tourism industry.

The bipartisan Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act provides stimulus needed to help bring back the millions of travel jobs lost to the pandemic.

The U.S. Travel Association praised the Thursday introduction of one of its major legislative priorities: this U.S. bill providing much-needed assistance to the devastated travel industry through numerous key incentive and relief measures.

Specifically, the bill provides:

  • A temporary business tax credit to revitalize business meetings, conferences, and other structured events.
  • A temporarily restored entertainment business expense deduction to help entertainment venues and performing arts centers recover.
  • An individual tax credit to stimulate non-business travel.
  • Tax relief for restaurants and food and beverage companies to help restore food service jobs and strengthen the entire American food supply chain.

The travel industry is by far the U.S. industry that has been hardest-hit by the COVID pandemic, losing half a trillion dollars in travel-related spending last year—10 times the negative economic impact of 9/11. Almost four in 10 U.S. jobs lost in 2020 are in the leisure and hospitality sector.

“The evidence is abundantly clear: there will not be a U.S. economic recovery without a travel recovery, and travel cannot recover without strong and innovative policy assistance,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Even with the ray of hope provided by vaccines, it is unclear when travel demand will be able to rebound in earnest. This bill contains critical provisions to assist in rebuilding this crucial but suffering American industry.”

U.S. Travel is leading a campaign to secure support for the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, submitting a letter to Capitol Hill signed by more than 80 major travel-related companies and organizations.

The principal sponsors of the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act are Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA).

Said Dow: “For months we have been urging Congress to provide stimulus for travel demand in addition to the relief this industry so badly needs, and we thank the sponsors for advancing this bill that would do so much to spur recovery.”

Click here for details of the legislation.